Surprisingly, it didn't take long.
Mookie Betts is a terrific ballplayer - one of the best in the game. He always has carried himself with grace, he never gave cause for any negativity, he never said anything negative about Boston or its fans - to the contrary, he said many very polite and positive things. There's not a single negative thing that could be said about him.
But...given that we're seeing more of the picture, and given the introspection I've gone through not just in the past day or so arising from this, but in the previous highly extended offseason...it was inevitable that he would leave. And, frankly, in the long run the Red Sox made a very wise decision.
Betts always maintained that he saw an obligation to push back at the diminishing salaries; to test free agency. I believed him. I believe even now he meant exactly that. I also believe Covid radically changed the landscape where it was eminently reasonable that he sign the extension he'd long said he wouldn't sign with Boston.
I'll admit, I'm fairly miffed at his enthusiasm and careful word-play - it's clear his very careful and polite wording over the past years has masked an unwillingness to engage. It appears to have been "12 years or no", not to mention bajillions of dollars. And 12 years is laughably foolish. He quite clearly has shown an enthusiasm to engage with Los Angeles that he never showed with Boston. I can't help but feel a little sour about that. It's the "jilted lover" thing, and what are baseball fans if not incredibly intense lovers? But that's not nearly the only part to this.
Plain and simple, baseball fans are conditioned to having our favorite players leave. ALL players leave - by trade, free agency, release, or retirement. Nobody plays forever, and we fans are eternally conditioned to turn the page. Heck, this explains the extreme fetishising of minor league programs. They are the Perpetual 'Next!'. In our avidity, we are already replacing the current players we are rooting for.
And let's face it - we're rooting for laundry. We're rooting for the team. We're rooting, frankly, for ownership. Oh, I certainly want the owners (of all teams) to be hella-more fair than they are. Perhaps to not be so talented at being ruthless. To be as worthy of our affection as the players they hire to encourage our spending are. And generally, they very much are not. And that sucks.
But they're not alone in the problem. They're not lone offenders - not by a longshot. The Players Association has bungled negotiations and relations with management and the league to what feels like near-criminal incompetence. They used a retired first baseman to negotiate billions of dollars of baseball revenue with billionaire business experts. That'd be like if the owners sent 84-year-old Jerry Reinsdorf to try to hit a home run off a healthy Chris Sale, for all the marbles. Conceivable? Yee-ees...kinda. Barely. But probable? Not even a little. Criminal stupidity.
And if that wasn't bad enough, as if the last round of negotiations wasn't a catastrophic annihilation by those billionaire businesspeople against the players, the Players Association decided that the same Mr. Clark should represent them again. Basically, they're bringing a Tony Clark to a gunfight.
It's not just the monumental foolishness of the players group, but also the slimy selfishness. The players opted to favor the concept of "Huge Free Agent Contracts to Aging Stars." They completely threw the younger players under the bus - shackling them to no-leverage scenarios. And minor leaguers? Man, they stretched them out on an altar and drove a knife in their chests and ripped out their hearts like it was an Aztec Christmas.
That was incredibly selfish, yes. But it was also monumentally stupid. The entire world has watched the evolution of baseball analytics and the understanding of what is truly valuable - and when. The players clove to the outdated concept of aging stars, some years after it was actually plausible due to heavy PEDs use. That era generated what are some of the worst contracts in baseball history...and the semi-reasonable explanation for it (enhancement via cheating) is now more or less gone.
Mookie Betts' 12-year extension is going to be catastrophic by the end - and quite probably well before that. ALL super-long contracts are. The history on this is indisputable. And that's not even assuming he has a Prince Fielder-level career-ending injury.
We should know better - we just watched this in real time with David Price before our very own eyes.
The Betts' contract will be catastrophic, and it won't happen to us - to we who are conditioned to watch players leave. We watched Mookie leave on a high note - hell, if anything, that's a big plus, rather then the increasingly pathetic spectacle of Dustin Pedroia gamely trying to rehab for going on three years now. And counting. We got a pretty respectable return on it, too. Not great, no. But that was never going to happen.
Do you think the Yankees wouldn't ditch Stanton's contract in a New York heartbeat if they could? Or that the Padres wouldn't slither out of Machado's contract, or the Phillies wouldn't sprint from Harper's if they could? Long-term contracts have such a radically bad history that it's silly to pretend otherwise.
This isn't about "rooting for owners". You can't really blame management for acting in their own best interests. You CAN blame the players association for not acting in THEIR own, collective interest - and not just that of a handful of stars and a group of powerful agents. This wound is entirely self-inflicted - they based their entire negotiating strategy on "get paid for past performance" rather than current or future...when everyone knows full well that it was a horrible approach.
Mookie Betts was not stupid. He looked out for himself, the same way owners do. He did so with courtesy, integrity and forthrightness - and I respect the hell out of him for that. I'll miss watching him play in a Boston uniform, very much so. I'll wish him well - but I won't root for him. I'll wish him well knowing that him doing so will result with him wearing a Los Angeles Dodger hat on his Cooperstown plaque.
But Hall of Fame or no (especially 'no'!), his deal is going to end disastrously for the Dodgers. Boston has been crawling out from under ill-advised contracts for a couple of years now, and we all saw the math about how not doing that deal (or something basically similar to it) would keep us absolutely buried for multiple years.
I've watched Red Sox players leave all my life. They retire, they get traded, they sign elsewhere...they fade away. There are always new ones coming up. I enjoyed those who went before (here's to you, Mookie!)....and I'll enjoy those to come. Either way, I'm over it. And I'm excited to watch Verdugo, and I will cheer on and hope for Downs and Wong.